Kim Crockett must be shunned | Column

May 26, 2022 5:59 am

Secretary of State Steve Simon paused to gather himself during his speech at the DFL State Convention, as he told the story of his great-grandfather escaping tyranny as a Lithuanian Jew. Screenshot.

The Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party gathered last weekend in Rochester, even though their candidates for statewide office are all incumbents. Everyone presumed it would be a dull affair. 

Secretary of State Steve Simon stepped to the lectern. Simon is bright, competent and responsible. 

You won’t hear Simon deliver the usual self-aggrandizing bombast or partisan sallies. It’s just not his thing. Which makes him kind of dull, though given the tenor of the times, this is not a bad thing. 

So when he began his speech, we could be forgiven for checking our phones.

And then a few minutes into it, Simon spoke briefly about how his great-grandfather, a Lithuanian Jew, wound up in America. 

“He didn’t just emigrate to America. He fled. He fled discrimination and persecution. He was what today we would call a refugee. The year before he left for America, Jews in the Russian empire lost the right to vote.” 

“And then,” Simon began, but he could go no further. He was silent, struggling to continue, for an excruciating 12 seconds, during which — if you had a shred of historical knowledge and decency — you considered what befell Lithuanian Jews and the evil that caused it. 

“Things got much worse.” 

Simon spelled it out: “No one knows for sure what would have happened to him had he stayed in Lithuania, but over 90% of the Jews there were eventually murdered in the Holocaust.” 

Simon’s young daughter, who was on stage with him, drew closer to him, and grabbed his arm in comfort. 

Simon’s great-grandfather settled in Eveleth, and thus began the family’s American dream. 

“In America, he found freedom. He found a place where you could have a say. A voice in his own future. That freedom today is just as important today as it was back then.” 

Simon’s ability to grapple with the gravity of human history and our role in it contrasts starkly with his likely Republican opponent, Kim Crockett. 

At the GOP convention a week prior, Crockett’s campaign played a video that showed George Soros — a wealthy donor to progressive causes who also happens to be a Jewish Holocaust survivor — as a puppet master, controlling Simon. 

The Jews are pulling the strings. It’s an old theme, older even than the Nazis who employed it to stoke hatred and fear. But it’s still with us, harbored by the man who killed 10 people in Buffalo the very weekend Crockett was winning the GOP endorsement. 

The Minnesota Republican Party was forced to apologize, and lamely claimed Crockett didn’t intend for the Soros imagery to be antisemitic. 

Crockett blew up the apology fewer than 24 hours later with a fundraising letter that referred to “contrived and bogus political attacks” and showed an image of her apparently lounging lakeside, with sandaled feet and a Tucker Carlson book. 

The message was clear. Join me: You and I hate the same people. 

This isn’t the first time Crockett has done a public goose step dance.

She previously apologized for comments she made to a New York Times reporter about East African immigrants coming to Minnesota.

“These aren’t people coming from Norway, let’s put it that way. These people are very visible,” she said in 2019, in an article that led her to leave her post at the local conservative outfit Center of the American Experiment.

Then, more recently, she proceeded to disavow earlier apologies. “I would say everything today that I said in 2019,” she said. Her comments were merely taken out of context, she said, as if there could be any context that would explain her comments. 

Setting aside her loathsome views about anyone who doesn’t share her ancestry, Crockett is also a danger to the office of the secretary of state. 

To begin with, she’s ignorant, or lying. In another fundraising letter, she wrongly asserted the secretary of state “counts the votes.” Counties and cities count the votes.

She told supporters that Republicans have to overcome a “margin of fraud,” despite the overwhelming evidence that elections here are free, fair and legitimate, the results confirmed by statutorily mandated audits. 

She’s also in whole hog on the 2020 election lie, which directly led to the insurrection of Jan. 6.  It was a failed coup that sought to ensure some people in this country — people with similar tribal hatreds as Crockett — get to run things in perpetuity.  

Her stated aim is to create barriers to voting, perhaps hoping to discourage participation in self-government by people she hates. 

We rightly bemoan the loss of civility in public life these days, but the way back to civility isn’t just being charitable to our political opponents. 

Paradoxically, we must also shun those who have lost the privilege to engage in public life because of their bigotry and bullying. 

Minnesotans — beginning with the Republican candidates who are running on the ticket with her in the fall — should cast aside Crockett. Scott Jensen, the likely GOP candidate for governor, should explain that Crockett’s bigotry and thirst for authoritarianism have no place in the Republican Party or in public life.

Given Jensen’s desire that Simon be imprisoned for his management of the pandemic-fraught 2020 election, I don’t have much faith. 

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J. Patrick Coolican
J. Patrick Coolican

J. Patrick Coolican is Editor-in-Chief of Minnesota Reformer. Previously, he was a Capitol reporter for the Minneapolis Star Tribune for five years, after a Knight-Wallace Fellowship at the University of Michigan and time at the Las Vegas Sun, Seattle Times and a few other stops along the way. He lives in St. Paul with his wife and two young children